The Langdales – Lingmoor Fell from Elterwater round

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Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District.  It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.

Langdale in the Lake District is the collective name for Great Langdale and Little Langdale which are separated by Lingmoor Fell. Great Langdale is best known for the Langdale Pikes which are a group of peaks on the northern side of the dale. The area is popular with hikers, climbers and fell runners who are attracted to the many fells at the head of the valley and Scafell Pike, which is England’s highest mountain, can also be climbed from here. The valley is U-shaped formed by glaciers and its mouth is located at Skelwith Bridge. The valley houses two villages Chapel Stile and Elterwater and these were the centres of the Lakeland slate industry. The workings at Elterwater Quarry and Spout Cragg Quarry are still working now using modern methods and both are operated by the Burlington Stone Company but many other mines have now fallen into disuse. Little Langdale valley is a hanging valley and has been heavily mined for copper and slate for the last few hundred years but today only the evidence remains. Little Langdale was in earlier days at the intersection of packhorse routes and Slaters Bridge which crosses the River Brathay at Little Langdale Tarn is a fine example. The bridge built of slate is of 17th century and crosses the river in three spans supported by a large mid stream boulder and stone causeways. Little Langdale Tarn which is a natural tarn set in a marshy area of the valley was several times larger at the end of the last ice age. The tarn, which has no public access, and a large area around the tarn has been designated an SSSI and is managed by the National Trust who also maintains many of the scattered farms in the valley. Little Langdale village is a small hamlet consisting of a few stone houses and a pub, the Three Shires Inn it was named this because it was only two miles from where each of three old boundaries of the counties of Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland met.

Lingmoor Fell even though surrounded by higher and more popular fells stands on its own with no connecting ridges and separates Great Langdale from Little Langdale. The fell can be climbed either from Elterwater in Great Langdale or from the Blea Tarn car park in Little Langdale. The summit at 469 metres (1539 feet), named Brown How, throws out wonderful views of the Langdale Pikes, the high fells around the head of Great Langdale and to the south west the Coniston Fells. The high dry stone wall which crosses over the summit travels along the spine of Lingmoor Fell from its eastern foot to finish at the crags below Side Pike in the west. Lingmoor Fell’s northern and eastern flanks above the villages of Elterwater and Chapel Stile are covered in deciduous woodland and have long been quarried for its high quality Westmorland green slate. The Burlington quarry at Elterwater has been worked for over 300 years and is still in production turning out 800 tonnes of slate annually. Many of the quarries have closed over the years and the crags are now used by rock climbers. The detached rock pinnacle of Oak Howe Needle, 1km from the summit, part of Oak Howe Crag has over ten routes on Rhyolite crags also popular with rock climbers. To the north-west Lingmoor Fell has a subsidiary top known as Side Pike, at 363 metres (1187 feet) it has a sheer rock face which is not accessible by the walker.

Elterwater the lake, situated at the entrance of Great Langdale, is the smallest of sixteen lakes being only half a mile long. The lake is fed by water from both Great Langdale and Little Langdale and the River Brathay provides the outflow from the lake. Elterwater means Swan Lake, Elter being the Norse word for swan and the lake is a haven for a large variety of wildlife especially the swans that migrate to the lake in the winter.

Elterwater the village which was a farming and quarrying community now depends on tourism because only a quarter of its houses are permanently occupied the rest are holiday cottages, there is also a youth hostel and the Britannia Inn which is a former 17th century farmhouse.  The village first prospered with the quarrying of slate at Kirkstone Green. In 1824 a gunpowder manufacturing business brought workers to Elterwater. Coppiced juniper wood was turned into charcoal, saltpetre was imported to Windermere by train and then transported to the village and sulphur was also imported. These three ingredients were mixed and ground to produce the gunpowder and six water wheels turned by the River Brathay provided an economic means of power. Production ceased in the early 1930’s and today the building is a holiday complex.

Chapel Stile is a small village located at the foot of Great Langdale on the banks of the River Brathay and is quite distinctive with its 19th century green slate houses which were built to house the quarrymen. During the same period a gunpowder works was also established to supply the slate quarry mines. The village church, built in 1857, sits on the hillside overlooking the village and has a few interesting stained glass windows.

The Walk

We walk into the centre of Elterwater and follow the Coniston and Little Langdale sign over the bridge. We head up the road until we reach the Elterwater Inn and turn right along the tarmac track. We pass Elterwater hall and keep heading forwards following the sign for Little Langdale 1 mile. We start heading uphill through the trees and when we reach a gate we go through and keep heading forwards following the track. After leaving the trees we pass a solar pillar on the right we go through the gate on the right and bear half left across the field through the second gate. We keep heading uphill to go through a third gate then turn right and follow the path zigzagging uphill with the wall on our right. At the second cairn we head forwards, leaving the main path, to a wall. We now turn left and follow the wall uphill to rejoin the main path. We keep following the wall uphill towards the summit of Lingmoor Fell the wall becomes a fence. At the stile in the fence we cross over and turn left following the path between the fence on our left and a cairn on the right. We start to go downhill and when the fence turns sharp left we turn left still downhill. We then follow the path close to the wall until we reach a stile. We turn left over the stile and follow the wall on our right until we reach the cliff face of Side Pike. We turn left downhill towards the road and then take the path on the right through the field which runs parallel to the road. When the road turns sharp left we keep heading forwards on the path. Just before the tree line we turn right along the path heading towards the stream. We cross over a ladder stile a keep heading forwards on the Cumbria Way. We take the track between two walls marked with a yellow arrow. At the junction of paths next to a building we bear left following the sign for Great Langdale 1¼ miles. We keep follow the track passing a large wooden bridge over Great Langdale Beck on our left sign posted Chapel Stile 1 mile. We go through a gate and keep heading towards a farm with the beck on our left. We cross over a stone bridge and follow the sign to the village centre. We come to the road opposite the public toilets and turn right. Immediately after passing Wainwright’s Inn we turn right following the sign Elterwater ½ mile. We go over a bridge and head forwards following the track with the beck on our left and spoil heaps on our right. At the t-junction we turn left onto a tarmac track. At the bridge we cross over, turn left and make our way through Elterwater back to our car.


This is a moderate walk on good paths and tracks with some minor road.

Elevation: Approx lowest point 61.10m (200.46ft) approx highest point 467.40m (1533.46ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 7.2 miles allow 3.5 – 4 hours using OS Explorer Map’s OL6 & OL7. The English Lakes: – South-western area and South-eastern area.

Start point: Road side on the edge of Elterwater village.


Elterwarter is in the Langdales in the Lake District, Cumbria.

Directions and Parking

From the A66 take the A591 Keswick to Windermere road. At Ambleside follow the Coniston signs (one way system) onto the A593. At Skelwith Bridge turn right onto the B5343 sign posted Elterwater.

Parking: Free road and lay-by parking on the edge of the village and the pay and display car park in the village centre.

Toilets and refreshments

There are public toilets at Elterwater near the car park and bridge and also at Chapel Stile which are open from Easter to October.  For refreshments in Elterwater there is the Britannia Inn and the Elterwater Inn. In Chapel Stile there is the Wainwright’s Inn, Brambles Cafe and Langdale Co- operative village store. Nearby in Little Langdale village there is the Three Shires Inn and at Skelwith Bridge there is the Skelwith Bridge Hotel and Chesters shop, bakery and cafe.

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